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Good Government Through the Looking Glass

Posted: 07/19/11 02:19 PM ET

Increasing the effectiveness of governmental programs and services requires a framework to efficiently gauge performance. Put simply, you cannot manage without measuring along the way.



As with the citizens of every region of the country, the five million people who live in Cook County have been faced with hard choices. The economic downturn combined with a historic lack of accountability has
 sapped resources from critical programs and services for the citizens of Cook County. It's not frivolous programs that are at stake, but vital services for all people including health care and police 
protection.



I realize that simple band-aid solutions won't fix broad, systemic problems. A key step towards reform in any government requires taking an honest and thorough look at the current budgets and programs. As Cook County Board President, I feel it is my responsibility to institute meaningful, objective performance measures for the people of Cook County.


On July 7th, we launched a new way to measure performance management standards with the "Set Targets, Achieve Results" (STAR) initiative. The purpose of [the] STAR is to inform residents on how their County performs. Cook County will start using benchmarks such as wait times at hospitals and employee sick time as part of a plan to set performance standards.



With pro bono support from the Civic Consulting Alliance and its partners, we have been working with all County agencies to establish County-wide goals and metrics in areas such as public safety and economic development. This uniformity will help us work collaboratively to improve services and make government more accountable to its residents.



The results-oriented data shows how services are delivered, resources are used and whether outcomes are achieved. But beyond the analysis, this data must be translated to the constituency. I firmly believe it's not just the county government's responsibility to do a good job; it's our responsibility to explain it.



By implementing across the board standards of accountability, all agencies are required to report system-wide data -- in public safety, healthcare, property and tax, economic development, and general finance and administration. This data reporting allows us to have frank conversations about the cost and quality of services we provide the residents of Cook County.


The County has already seen results stem from the STAR initiative. One example: through the implementation of proper tracking and accountability measures, Cook County Works (formerly know as POET) worked to decrease absences due to sick days by over half (from 8.2 hours per employee per month to 3.4 hours per employee per month). In a department of roughly 50 employees, this is the equivalent of having added 1.5 workers to this department.

We welcome citizens from throughout the county to engage in a dialogue about performance management in County government and we encourage input on our metrics and progress.  You participate at www.cookcountyil.gov/STAR.